Body Piercing - Is it a Good Idea?

Since ancient times, human beings have worn embellishments on their body and these have had multiple functions ranging from signifying tribal affiliation, status within the hierarchy of the social group to personal adornment. Body piercing falls in this category and while it has been around for a long time, it is only recently and in liberated cultures that the practice has taken on the shades of a fashion trend. So if you too are steeling yourself to get your body pierced, consider first whether this is such a good idea after all.

About body piercing

Body piercing means exactly what it says – the puncturing or piercing of any part of the body for the addition of jewelry or ornamentation. The significance of this practice may vary according to different cultural contexts – a practically universal form of body piercing is on the ear lobes done on young girls whereas those on the navel and nipples are instances of highly radical fashion and followed only in very limited social groups. even in case of the all too common ear piercing, there are wide variations – for instance in certain parts of India, the ear lobes of infant girls only a few days after they are born whereas in more modern societies body piercing may be prohibited below a certain age. Again for the same gender in the same country the symbolic meaning of ear piercing can differ – while in certain caste groups in India, boys get their ears pierced as part of male adulthood initiation ceremony, in cosmopolitan cities young men are doing it as part of a fashion trend. So what you and your family think of body piercing - and especially the kind of piercing you are planning on – will greatly depend on which part of the world you come from.

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Risks of infection

Bacterial infection is the main risk associated with body piercings. Sometimes, an abscess forms around the piercing site. If left untreated, this has the potential to develop into blood poisoning or toxic shock syndrome, which can be very serious. Tongue piercings particularly carry a higher risk of bacterial infection because of the high number of bacteria already present inside the mouth. Also tongue piercings have the potential to cause speech impediments and chipped teeth if the jewelry wears away tooth enamel. Then again Nose piercings are riskier than earlobe piercings as the inner surface of the nose - which can't be disinfected - holds bacteria that can cause infection. Though less commonly opted for Genital piercings are not only highly painful but can interfere with the functions of the genitals, sometimes making sex and urination difficult and painful. This is particularly common with piercings on and around the penis.

Even though ear piercings are generally considered the safest, the exact place is important. Ear cartilage piercings performed at the top of the ear are riskier than earlobe piercings. In case of the former, if the site becomes infected, a painful abscess could develop. This is because the skin is very close to the underlying cartilage and pus can become trapped. Even Antibiotics may not be able to successfully treat this problem. Surgery is usually required to remove the affected cartilage which in turn can result in a deformed ear.

Risk of transmittable diseases

Apart from infection, the other major cause of worry in case of body piercings is that contaminated needles can leave clients at the risk of infection from diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV, many of which can be potentially fatal.

Other risks

Apart from the risk of infections, body piercing can result in Bleeding and blood loss, especially in areas of the body with a lot of blood vessels, such as the tongue. It can result in Swelling of the skin around the piercing and worst of all, scarring and the formation of keloid or an oversized bumpy scar. A body piercer should be informed beforehand if you know that your skin has a tendency to form keloid scars.

In countries like the US, a body piercer must meet specific requirements and be specially trained to be able to lawfully offer body piercing to the public. This usually includes a basic study of anatomy and physiology as well as courses aimed at preventing transmittable diseases and blood-borne pathogens. Other courses may be necessary in order to obtain a license and registration for practicing body piercing, as governed by laws of individual states.

Additionally all body piercings done by a licensed piercer uses sterile needles which are disposed of after a single use and any body piercing instrument that is reusable is fully sterilized after every use. Moreover any body piercing done by a registered piercer will be followed by detailed instructions on caring for the fresh piercing as well as preventing infection during healing. Many professional piercers in fact hand their clients a piercing care kit after the piercing. It's a formula that you have to put on the area everyday, and often for about a week or two.

so if you are still keen on body piercing, it may be wise to steer clear of the mall piercer shooting a piercer gun all day; instead check out the licenses piercing studios in your town or city which are more likely to offer a sterile environment.
Also keep in mind certain tips about healing and care for a fresh piercing. Piercing guns have pros and cons each and so discuss them with your piercer before the process. Also consider what kind of ring you are going to put in right after the piercing – most prefer a straight pin ring since it causes less pain while getting it in and out.  Also discuss what would be the right time to switch rings since Infections can happen if you do it too early. above all you need to be careful about your piercing when you are taking a bath or even sleeping since snagging the ring in a blanket or getting it wet before it has healed properly may cause complications ranging from bleeding to an infection.  also try and move your ring around few times a day so that it doesn’t stick with the hole, otherwise removing it later on might be very painful. If possible get the piercing in the winter or a dry season when healing is soonest.

Above all pay heed to the laws of your state in mind – usually no one under the age of eighteen is allowed to pierce his/her body without the written permission of a parent or legal guardian.  In fact in certain states like Idaho1, body piercing is not allowed on minors below fourteen years of age, even with parental consent.

Finally if you are getting a body piercing done on a whim or caught up in a fashion trend, consider whether you would like to be stuck with the complications for a long time to come. Though body piercings are more reversible than tattoos, some nasty effects like chipped teeth and keloid scar can last long after you have taken out the jewelry and let the hole close up.

Reference:

  1. National Conference of State Legislatures - State Laws on Tattooing and Body Piercing